Usually it is unwise to compare a movie with the original novel or even more so with the original play. But let’s do it.In the case of DOUBT, JOhn Patrick Shanley , who is basicaly a realistic playwright ,in this play,presents an austere chamber drama between four adults–Sister Aloysius,Father Flynn, the confused litle Sister James and, briefly but importantly,the boy’s mother. Deprived of the character of the young boy– who never appears in the play — at the centre of the conflict the audience is shown a a battle of attitudes over an abstract idea. In spite of their talents,through no fault of their own, it is not easy for the actors in the play to make the boy’s situation poignant or gripping.
By opening up the setting in the movie and showing the whole atmosphere of a parochial school as well as the interaction between father Flynn and this particular pupil and other students, we are given a far greater sense of the complexities behind their actions.The movie is more emotionally acccesible .
Yet,the actors at Centaur make a valient and sometimes succesful attempt to make this more than an abstract struggle of wills. Brenda Robbbins,in spite of the sufffocating limitations of the static set,and the odd directorial decision to have her speak some key scenes to the wall with her back to the audience, comes across a more real Sister Aloysius than Streep’s wicked witch portrayal. Even Streep’s face is scary,where we can beleive that the handsome Robbins was married,perhaps even happily, though we can guess who was the boss in that home; Robbins’ Sister Aloysius is one of those all too beleivable people who, convinced of their righteous cause, feel morally justified in sinning with lies to gain their ends. Goulem’s Flynn,always displaying a slightly smug satisfaction in his sermons, caves into her sweeping conviction rapidly– Guilt or a lack of balls for a fight with this opponent?Only– as we learn later– to be saved from disgrace by the Church’s male hierarchy.
The play,more cerebral is more about a power struggle. The movie,more emotional, about vulnerability and exploitation.

Take your pick. Or argue over both choices.